The first biography in English of this monumental figure of ballet history, Marius Petipa: The Emperor's Ballet Master covers the choreographer's life and work in full within the context of remarkable historical and political surroundings.
...a magisterially epic study ... Meisner has pieced together...stories from other sources and they run in surprising contrast to the image we have now of Petipa as the elder statesman of dance, distinguished and immaculately dressed ... Meisner weaves this biographical material into a much broader picture of ballet under the tsars; she is excellent on the contrasting skills and styles of the ballerinas with whom Petipa worked, and who forged his style just as much as any ethereal notions of dance did. She doesn’t always see the wood for the trees, or separate the glistening solos from the work of the corps de ballet, but there is an amplitude in her creation of Petipa’s world that is worthy of so expansive a creator.
...[a] wonderful, comprehensive biography ... I have always worshipped at the altar of Petipa without knowing much about the man. Marius Petipa: The Emperor’s Ballet Master, the first biography written in English about this extraordinary artist, is a welcome righting of that wrong. Meisner...has meticulously researched the facts of Petipa’s life and presents a full portrait of the man born in Marseilles in 1818, investigating his talent and his temperament ... It’s immensely readable, with tantalising archive photographs and an exhaustive — and invaluable — chronology of all Petipa’s Russian works ... What emerges is a man with impeccable manners, an incredible work ethic, a nasty jealous streak and a mercurial temper.
Nadine Meisner’s meticulously researched and exhaustively detailed study will surely establish itself as the standard authority on the subject in English. The absence of any scorching drama or scandal in Petipa’s life means that it doesn’t make electrifying reading, but its poise and scholarship impress, particularly in its command of the broader cultural context ... Meisner understandably feels sympathetic towards her subject, but the rest of us will find it hard to warm to him. Nobody ever said he was nice.